It’s fair to say that the majority of us have been away on a holiday before. It could have been a family holiday to the seaside, a trip to Europe with friends or a romantic break for you and your significant other. But going solo – that’s new and slightly out of your comfort zone.
I remember back to my first solo trip and things like ‘what if I get lonely’, or ‘what if I get in trouble and need help’ ran relentlessly through my mind. Looking back now, from a well-seasoned solo traveller point of view, I struggle to think what all the fuss was about, there really are so many benefits to travelling solo.
If you think back to the first time you do ANYTHING new it probably came with that slightly unnerving feeling. For example, starting a new job, moving to a new city or joining a club where you know no-one. It would be almost inhuman to not have at least a slight bit of apprehension. Within no time, you look back on the situation and wonder what all the nerves were about. It’s the same with solo travel.
Here are 15 reasons why embracing solo travel will be one of the best things you ever do.
1) You have the freedom to do what you want, when you want.
Think about this, when did you last have 100% control over what YOU did and when YOU did it. Travelling solo gives you the ultimate freedom of any travel style. For some, this alone would be enough to justify why solo travel is amazing.
You don’t have to consider what anyone else wants to do, you can spend as little or as a long doing a certain activity without worrying if the other person is bored. Essentially you are your own boss.
If you want to spend a day sleeping and bumming about by a pool then that’s as cool as waking up at the crack of dawn to hike up a mountain.
2. You will meet SO MANY new friends.
Yes, it can be a daunting prospect; being in a strange country, totally alone. However, the fact that you are alone makes the likelihood of meeting new friends so much higher than IF you were with other people.
If you are planning on staying in hotels you will find it’s much harder to meet people, essentially, even in the ‘social’ areas people don’t really talk. Hostels on the other hand, are a whole different kettle of fish. For a start they are very much more community based. They nearly all have a social area, some have communal kitchens, onsite restaurants/ bars, and at times will even have a garden and pool.
One of the plus points for staying in a hostel is that A LOT of people travel solo. It’s the norm and hostels know this. Therefore, they put on activities such as bar crawls, movie nights, and cultural trips. So be sure to sign up for these if you are the shy type, nearly everyone will be in the same situation as you.
Sure, you won’t be best buddies with everyone, but most people I’ve met in hostels have been super friendly, approachable and generally up for hanging out. It might not be the done thing back home to strike a conversation with a total stranger but in hostels, this really is the norm. Think of them as friends you’ve not yet met. I’ve never once felt alone on a trip.
3) You don't have to accommodate anyone else.
I love ancient ruins, I love walking, I love wildlife, I love museums, I love extreme sports and so many other things. I’ve been really fortunate more recently to travel with some like-minded and chilled-out people who were up for giving anything a try. However, I remember going away years ago as a small group of friends and in all honesty, being in that group was one of the most frustrating trips I’d ever done.
I remember spending a good chunk of time wishing that they weren’t there! There’s nothing worse than feeling restricted because you feel obliged to spend time with people who would rather sit, chill and drink all day in a bar and then reluctantly having to drag them around a museum or visit an ancient ruin and after half an hour find that they want to go.
4) You will realise how liberating being on your own really is.
Like I talked about in point 1, you probably will never have felt freedom anything like when you are on a solo trip. Being free from the usual responsibilities and expectations of life back home is awesome! With the absence of the constant bombardment of information, stimulus, organisation and general hectic lifestyle means that you’ll find you have a lot more downtime.
It’s difficult back home to really switch off, but the liberation from all these commitments really gives you time to think, contemplate and reflect on your own life. When you (eventually) go back home you will probably prioritise things differently – is working crazy hours in a job you don’t love REALLY worth it? Do you want a better work/life balance?
5) You'll have the opportunity to switch off and have a screen detox.
Solo travel can offer the perfect opportunity to have a screen detox. Try to get in the habit of leaving the phone locked up somewhere safe at the hostel and go out on your own to either sit and people-watch going about their daily lives or maybe even strike up a full conversation with a local. Try to interact with the real World; a scary thought yeah?! But sometimes my best travel memories have been chatting with locals.
That said, it’s probably not the best idea to leave the country without your mobile; you WILL need it at times! But just use the opportunity to cut back on screen time.
Life existed perfectly fine before the invention of smartphones and it still baffles me that in the past decade, people have become so dependent on this little gadget that they miss so much of the real world because they are looking down.
I am certainly guilty of this until I did a few trips where I was without a signal for up to two weeks at a time. The first few days felt odd, it was almost a reflex action to check my phone (not that I had a signal to pick anything up anyway.) Then within a few days I was so engrossed with everything around me, the things I was doing and having real conversations with real people (without the aid of a gadget to do it!) that I totally forgot about my ‘screen-life’.
6) You will become a pro decison-maker
When you travel solo, you and you alone are responsible for every single decision you make. So, when things go swimmingly to plan and you manage to navigate yourself and your luggage across a city using public transport in a country you don’t speak the language, then give yourself a massive high five. Likewise, if something doesn’t quite go to plan and the shit hits the fan then it’s down to you to keep your cool and to get yourself out of that predicament.
I’m naturally an indecisive person so for me, travelling solo really made me hone in on my decision-making skills, I had to work really hard at being much more assertive and decisive and not being so reliant on other people being around. If I’ve made a dodgy decision then I’ve only got myself to blame.
7) You can embrace your alter ego and no one's going to question it!
One of the pros of being thousands of miles away from anyone you know is that you can be anyone you want to be. You don’t have to fit into an accepted social norm here. If you’ve always wanted to embrace that inner hippy with no one judging you then this is the time to do it.
I’ve met some real whacky characters in my years of travel, some brilliantly quirky and some just plain weird. No one will have any expectations of you if you’ve only just met them, just a word of warning – don’t go so over the top that people start taking a wide berth around you and avoiding you altogether.
8) You will have oodles of new-found-self-confidence.
When people back in the UK ask me about my travel, pretty much every time they say ‘who do you go with?’, as if it’s beyond anyone’s ability to do something solo. My reply is ‘on my own’, which usually leads on to the response of ‘wow, you’re brave!’. One of the biggest benefits from travelling solo is this!
More often than not it’s peoples’ own self-doubt that is holding them back. Going solo can be scary but like anything, once you’ve crossed that hurdle and conquered the daemons in your own head it’s much easier than people make out. I eased myself into solo travel by choosing a backpacker friendly destination; Australia. I chose Oz because it was westernised and fairly similar to the UK in terms of lifestyle (but with much more sun and better outdoor pursuits!). Start with baby steps and build up the confidence to do trickier countries.
9) You will learn to be more compassionate, respectful and grateful.
If you travel to a developing nation, it’s really humbling to meet the locals who have never known a western lifestyle, instantly we’re being viewed as rich! The simple reason behind the ‘rich’ label; that we can actually afford a flight and to travel. Comparatively, they live a much more modest life – basic accommodation often shared with a large family, minimal possessions and limited technology yet a lot of the time they come across content, generous and welcoming – more so than lots of people from ‘rich’ nations. (Note: This vastly depends on where in the World you visit, there are certainly some developing nations substantially poorer than others).
Wherever you can, try and support the local communities (home-stays/local hostels rather than chain hotels), buy items such as food and souvenirs from the markets and not the big-brand shops.
Depending on the country, take small gifts out with you. Trivial and inexpensive items for us are often unavailable or unaffordable to them. Easy things to take are small notebooks and pens to help the school children, toiletries and little household items – my one regret of going to Cuba was that I wish I had purchased a load of universal rubber plugs for their sinks, each homestay I visited didn’t have any plugs in the sinks as they were too expensive! I also wish I’d taken some of my old nail polishes and makeup I don’t use to give to the ladies, they would always ask if I had cosmetic items I didn’t want – they really were desperate for lots of things we take for granted.
10) Your regular 9-5 in an office will never quite cut it again.
After spending the past 4+ years travelling, this is something I’m not sure I will ever get used to again. Ever. I come back to the UK essentially to make money, catch up with friends & family then I’m off again.
Prior to travel my life had routine and structure to it; wake up, work, gym/dance class, perhaps see friends, go to bed, day in day out, and I was OK with that. Then the travel bug hit, and for some, I don’t think they really ever get it out of their system.
Unless you are in the fortunate position where you absolutely love your job then it’s difficult after experiencing so many stimulating things whilst travelling to go back into the monotony of the 9-5. For me it’s a means to an end that I tolerate with the goal of jet-setting off somewhere as soon as funds are recouped.
11) You'll quickly learn that life back home is far too materialistic.
It’s not until you live out of a backpack that you realise how little you actually need to be comfortable and to survive. In the UK most people have far too much stuff than they actually need, it’s a downfall of a consumer based society. I can hold both of my hands up and admit this was me. I used to buy so much clothing, shoes, cosmetics etc because I could and wanted to, not actually because I needed them.
My first trip I took a massive backpack – a huge 70L thing! As well as a 30L ‘day bag’. And I packed for every eventuality, plus spares! What an idiot I was and how stupid I probably looked to all the seasoned backpackers who managed to fit their life into a much more modest 50L backpack.
So I was naïve and quickly learnt by the end of the first couple of weeks that I didn’t need half of what I brought with me. My overpacking was a direct result of me being used to having and feeling that I needed so much stuff to survive.
It’s also depressing, after moving around so much in the UK, in and out of storage units that I realise I have so much ‘stuff’. Purchases I could have put towards travel/ experiences. I certainly think-twice now about any new purchase I make – if I can live without to then I don’t really need it.
12) You'll realise that the World really isn't as scary as the Media makes out.
Frustratingly the media all too often will report the worst that a country has to offer and this gives people the warped vision that the World is a really dangerous place. Before I visited Mexico and Colombia so many people said to me that it was dangerous and to be careful. The strange thing was that the people giving me this ‘insight’ and ‘advice’ had never actually visited these countries before, their opinions being based purely on what they had seen on TV, read in the papers etc.
Yes, I’m certain there are no-go areas in both Colombia and Mexico and I’m sure being in the wrong place at the wrong time would result in something bad happening BUT from my first-hand experience, it was perfectly safe. Tourism is such a valuable asset to these countries that it’s in their interest to ensure that tourist areas are as safe as possible. Besides awful stuff happens in the UK, that’s not deterred the tourists.
Just be sensible, follow the advice given by locals who will know the area better than anyone. It’s also fair to say that the majority of people in the World are actually decent people who essentially just want to make a living and provide for their families, like with anything the actions of a few can tar a whole nation.
13) You will become more impulsive and spontaneous
So picture this; you’ve just landed in a new destination after a long haul flight, your body hasn’t got a clue what time zone it’s in, you’re exhausted from lack of sleep and if you were back home you’d probably jump at the opportunity to have a quiet one in and just chill. But ‘Hello’ new destination, ‘Hello’ roomies and suddenly before your backpack has even hit the floor you’re off with your new best friends exploring the local area.
Sounds crazy but this has happened to me so many times! My body quickly decides it doesn’t want to sleep now and the prospect of exploring a new destination with new found friends is far too enticing and exciting to ignore.
Embrace the spontaneity!
14) You stop living by the time on your watch.
Of course, you don’t want to miss those all-important flights or pick-up times but apart from that stop living by the time on your watch. Back home, life is governed by the clock; meetings, deadlines, appointments and so on; it’s stressful. The more solo travel you do the more you will learn to live in the moment; why rush away from a beautiful view or pass on stopping to chat with locals at a bar.
As ironic as it sounds, take the time to stop, you don’t need to cram everything into a day – leave that for your life back home.
15) You'll become obsessed with travel.
Guaranteed you will have the post-travel-come-down, it’s horrible and happens after every trip I’ve done. If you get well and truly bitten by the travel bug, you’ll feel the constant desire to reminisce, and quite rightly so, you’ve just had the most awesome time of your life!
Common symptoms of travel obsession are:
- Travel comes up as a topic of conversation at least once a day.
- The map of the World is your favourite thing to look at.
- You have a bucket list of places to go
- The next trip has already been booked within a few weeks of your return.
- Gadgets that you can take travelling are on top of your wish-list
- Saving money for the next trip, in any way shape or form has become your number 1 pastime
So what are you waiting for? There are so many benefits of travelling solo that it’s crazy to not give it a go. Get out there and book that solo trip of a lifetime.
Are you about to embark on your first solo trip? What’s your biggest worry? I’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to comment below.
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